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A company's first accounts must start on the day of incorporation

The first financial year must end on the 'accounting reference date'. Subsequent accounts start on the day following the year-end date of the previous accounts.

The accounting reference date (ARD) is the date in each year to which accounts will be drawn up. The date depends on the date of incorporation as it is the last day of the month in which the anniversary of incorporation falls. For example, if your company is incorporated on May 2 nd this year, the accounting reference date will be May 31 st the following year.

The ARD can be changed by filing form 225 at Companies House. This must be done during the accounting period affected by the change or during the period allowed for delivering the associated accounts to Companies House.

The first accounts of a private limited company must be delivered within 10 months of the accounting reference date, or if the ard is more than 12 months, within 22 months or incorporation.

If accounts or annual returns are not filed, all the directors of the company could be prosecuted. Failure to file on time is a criminal offence and on conviction a fine of up to £5,000 may be imposed by the court for each offence.

Alternatively, the registrar may form the opinion that the company is no longer carrying on business or is not in operation and may strike it off the register. At this point, all the assets of the company, including its bank account, will become property of the Crown.

As a director of a private limited company, you have a period of 10 months from the accounting reference date in which to deliver your company's accounts to the registrar. If the accounts are received late the company will be charged a late filing penalty which will be calculated as follows:

  • up to 3 months late £100
  • up to 6 months late £250
  • up to 12 months late £500
  • more than 12 months late £1000

Remember, the responsibility to prepare accounts and them submitted on time rests entirely with the directors not the company accountant (depending on the agreement drawn up with him). Ensure that your accountant has all the necessary information to prepare your accounts and get them audited on time. If necessary, chase your accountant - remember accountants and financial advisors don't get prosecuted or penalised, you do!

Annual Returns

Every company must deliver an annual return to Companies House at least once every 12 months. It has 28 days from the date to which this return is made up to do this. Companies House send a pre-printed 'shuttle' form to your registered office a few weeks before the anniversary of incorporation. It gives details about the company's directors, secretary, registered office address, shareholders and share capital. You must:

  • check that the details are still correct
  • amend any that are incorrect
  • send the form back, signed and dated, within 28 days of the date of the return which is shown on the front of the form

There is a filing fee of £15 which must also be sent with the return.

The information provided on this page has been sourced through Companies House.

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